Has Iga Swiatek ever thought about her post-career? The player may have only celebrated her 22nd birthday on May 31, the question has already been asked at a press conference. A few days ago, a teasing British journalist asked her if, besides tennis, she had ever thought of opening a bagel factory. More of a tennis joke than anything else, the question was mainly intended to make the Polish woman react to her many sets won 6-0 (nicknamed bagels or bicycle wheel in the jargon, in relation to the shape of the numbers).
Since the start of Roland-Garros, Iga Swiatek has distributed four bagels. Including two in the same match against a poor Chinese swept away in 52 minutes in the third round. Wishing to avoid any controversy, the interested party preferred to type in the hallway: “I don’t want to talk too much about it. I understand that people find it funny, that it’s entertainment, but I want to be respectful of my opponent. As respectful as she is, the world number 1 will try this Saturday afternoon, June 10, against the surprising Czech Karolina Muchová, to add a new Roland to her list. His third already.
A monster of precocity, the Polish woman has always been one step ahead. In 2020, at 19, she offered her first Porte d’Auteuil title. It had been nearly three decades since such a young player had won Roland-Garros. If his first victory was a surprise, his second, last year, was much less so. Iga Swiatek arrived in the spring with an incredible series of 28 consecutive victories behind her. She left the Parisian Grand Slam still undefeated after a demonstration against the American Coco Gauff in the final (6-1, 6-3). The series finally ended at 37, after a defeat against Alizé Cornet at Wimbledon. The longest invincibility for a player in the 21st century, erasing the Williams sisters from the shelves.
In 2023, Swiatek arrived at Porte d’Auteuil with her favorite costume still on her shoulders, but with a few disappointments behind her. She herself admits over the interviews to have had a little slack, a consequence in particular of too much pressure that she inflicted on herself. The Pole is nonetheless the most successful player since the surprise retirement of Australian Ashleigh Barty. In a year and a half, she won 10 singles titles (for 13 finals), including two Grand Slams. A longevity and a regularity which impresses in a women’s circuit which shone in recent years by its homogeneity.
Regardless of his result against Karolína Muchová, Swiatek will celebrate his 63rd consecutive week at the top of the WTA rankings on Monday. A sign of the constant changes at the top of the women’s circuit, her opponent will experience her first Grand Slam final. This is the fifth consecutive year that one of the two finalists at Roland-Garros had never reached this stage in a major tournament before.
At the start of the season, no one would have imagined Karolina Muchová finding herself in the final of the Parisian Grand Slam on June 10. In January, she was only 151st in the world and was still only 43rd at the start of the tournament. For a while, the Czech probably dreamed of the top places in the WTA rankings. She had also reached 17th in 2021 thanks to a semi-final at the Australian Open. But as during his adolescence, his body did not allow him to maintain himself at the high level. “I went from one injury to another”she recalled after her half on Thursday.
Last year, she left Roland-Garros in tears. After having achieved the feat of taking out the Greek María Sákkari – a performance repeated this year – she twisted her ankle in the third round and ended up giving up. On Thursday, tears, of joy this time, once again streamed down her face. His game made of alternation, shots from the baseline then amortized and mounted on the net got the better of Aryna Sabalenka, world number 2 and another big favorite with Swiatek. She also benefited from the many errors of the Belarusian who completely foiled at the end and let slip a match that she should have won.
Two Ra-fans in the final
“It’s a coincidence but it turns out that we trained a lot together so she’s a player I know well. I really like her tennis, I have the impression that she can do everything. She has a good touch, she can speed up the game, she plays with freedom in her movements., analyzed Swiatek on Thursday about Karolina Muchová. The two players have one thing in common: both have, as kids, idolized Rafael Nadal and spent Sundays in June watching him crush players on the Parisian central. If we can say without getting too wet that Muchová will not equal the record of the Spaniard Porte d’Auteuil, Swiatek would be, in the event of victory, always close to the passing times of Rafa who won his third Roland at 21 years old . The Polish swears not to think about it: “I don’t imagine that’s possible, it’s out of reach.”
Saturday afternoon, it is as an ultra-favorite that she will return to the court. But Karolína Muchová can count on her lucky star (and her talent). In her career, she has faced a player ranked in the top three in the world five times. And five times she won her match. An incredible statistic that she swears to have discovered at a press conference Thursday evening when the journalists questioned her about it.
Another figure that pleads in favor of the Czech: the only time the two players faced each other in an official match, it was she who left with the victory. It was in 2019, in Prague, for one of the first career matches on the main circuit of Iga Swiatek. The Pole was only 17 years old and had to play her last qualifying match and then that against Muchová on the same day, the fault of the rain which had upset the schedule.
A few drops could also fall on the Philippe-Chatrier court this Saturday, the first of the fortnight. But at Roland-Garros, the center now has a brand new roof. Iga Swiatek will have to find better excuse in case of defeat.